The saga of Massachusetts’ Cape Wind Project has progressed slowly and painfully. Proponents will take it.
After a decade of bureaucratic and legal wrangling, the embattled project has crossed some major thresholds. In October, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Cape Wind President Jim Gordon signed what was touted as the first lease for an offshore wind farm in U.S. federal waters.
The lease authorizes Cape Wind to construct its proposed 130-turbine offshore wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound and to operate the facility for 25 years.
If and when it is constructed, the project, which was initially proposed in 2001, is expected to reach maximum outputs of 450 MW. Average generation is expected to be about 170 MW, about three-quarters of the total demand for the areas of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which will be served by the farm.
In addition to the lease, Cape Wind cleared another major hurdle this summer when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a composite permit from the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) for the project’s transmission facilities. The EFSB permit allowed the project to bypass approval from several municipalities and regional commissions that it would have had to obtain otherwise. One regional body, the Cape Cod Commission, had previously denied a permit, but the EFSB composite permit and the court’s ruling in favor of it negated that decision.
Construction of Cape Wind is still not a given. The project will need to obtain approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Futhermore, opponents—who fear the project will harm wildlife and the sound’s famous vistas—are sure to challenge the project every step of the way.
Undaunted by the challenges, Cape Wind emphasizes the irony of project criticism based on environmental concerns. The project’s website features a running tabulation of the amount of energy that would have otherwise been produced and the tons of carbon dioxide pollution that would have been offset, if the project could have been launched without all the delays. At press time, those figures stood at 12.2 million megawatt-hours and 6.3 million tons of greenhouse gases.